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Understanding Governing Laws For Airboat Accidents That Occur in the Everglades

Airboat tours are one of the main attractions in the Florida Everglades. The combination of being on a fan boat and getting to see some alligators up close and personal is enough for many of the state’s millions of visitors to set aside an entire day dedicated solely to riding on a fan boat with a native tour guide. Unfortunately, fan boat rides – just like everything else – come with their fair share of casualties. Just this past March, Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours—one of the most popular airboat companies in the Everglades—experienced five boating accidents, the last of which resulted in four hospitalizations. This past July, a seven-year old boy died when an airboat overturned. Last September, 50 people were involved in one major airboat accident in Gator Park; two dozen were transported immediately to the hospital.

Airboats are exhilarating – and they are especially popular among eco-tourists to the Fort Myers area – but the narrow channels down which the tour guides travel, and the high speeds at which they travel, can be extremely dangerous. If you were involved in an airboat accident while vacationing in Florida, the boating accident lawyers at The Pendas Law Firm can evaluate your case and help you receive the compensation you deserve for your losses.

Where the Accident Occurs Matters

Where an airboat accident occurs—whether in “non-navigable” waters or “navigable” waters—influences the outcome of a boating accident case. Much of Florida’s Everglades is made up of landlocked ponds, and as such, is considered by state and Federal standards as “non-navigable.” If the boating accident in which you were involved occurred on non-navigable waters, then Florida state law will govern. However, a waterway that could be used to transport a boat to the ocean or between two states is considered “navigable”; if an accident occurred on navigable waters, the Federal maritime law will govern the accident.

Why Navigability Matters

When an airboat accident occurs on navigable waters, federal maritime law applies, meaning that the standard of care owed to passengers would be “reasonable care under the circumstances.” This means that an airboat operator cannot be sued – and nor can the company – if an airboat operator in the same situation would have acted in the same manner. This would make it difficult for an airboat passenger in Fort Myers, Florida to sue for damages, as many airboat operators operate so as to provide their passengers with a “thrilling ride.”

However, if the accident were to occur in the non-navigable waters of Fort Myers’ Everglades, then Florida state law would apply. Under Florida state law, the standard of care owed to passengers is much greater—in fact, it is equivalent with the highest degree of care that is consistent with that particular type of transportation.

Who Is Liable: The Company or the Operator?

Should an airboat operator fail to adhere to the rules outlined in the aforementioned statute, they can be charged with careless and reckless driving. However, because of something called respondeat superior – which makes an employer automatically legally liable for any misconduct committed by its employees if the employee acted within the course of business – the airboat company would be liable.

Consult a Fort Myers Boating Accident Lawyer

At The Pendas Law Firm, we serve individuals involved in serious accidents throughout the state of Florida. Air boating accidents can have very severe consequences, ranging from emotional trauma to lost wages, and head injuries to death. If you were involved in an air boating accident in Fort Myers, contact our personal injury law firm at 1-888-LPENDAS today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced air boating accident lawyers. We also serve clients in the West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville areas.

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